Hundreds of schools to shut as toxic smog cloaks Bangkok

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The horserace track of The Royal Bangkok Sports Club (C) is seen from the King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper, Bangkok's highest observation deck, during a polluted day in the city on January 28, 2019. (AFP)
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A couple wear face masks in central Bangkok on January 25, 2019, as the capital suffers from air pollution for more than a week. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2019
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Hundreds of schools to shut as toxic smog cloaks Bangkok

  • Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks
  • Fleets of drones are set to be deployed to disperse sugary liquid solution to help clear the air of microscopic particles

BANGKOK: Toxic smog forced Bangkok authorities to issue an unprecedented order to shut nearly 450 schools on Wednesday, as authorities struggle to manage a pollution crisis that has stirred widespread concern.
The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, forcing residents to don masks and sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government.
Reasons given for the lingering pall include exhaust from traffic, unfettered construction, the burning of crop stubble, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city.
Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks and paper during Chinese New Year celebrations.
The measures so far have provoked derision from many Bangkok residents, while stocks of pollution masks have run out in many shops.
But on Wednesday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration stepped up its health warnings, ordering all 437 city-controlled public schools to close from lunchtime through Friday, while designating 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) of the city a “control area.”
“The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” said Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, adding he hoped the move would also empty the road of cars on the school run.
Three to four of the city’s districts are “severely hit with smog,” he added.
Fleets of drones are set to be deployed to disperse sugary liquid solution to help clear the air of microscopic particles.
It is not clear how effective that will be given the scale of the smog cloaking the city.
Aswin also said City Hall may soon issue a warning against exercising in parks.
Air Visual, an independent online air quality index (AQI) monitor, on Thursday pegged Bangkok at the “unhealthy” level of 171, up from 156 mid-month.
The measurements are higher than some cities in China but well below the Indian capital New Delhi.
Greenpeace Thailand country director Tara Buakamsri said the levels in Bangkok were the worst in “at least a year.”


Pakistani prime minister says time for dialogue to resolve all issues with India

Updated 13 min 10 sec ago
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Pakistani prime minister says time for dialogue to resolve all issues with India

  • Khan welcomes Indian prime minister Modi’s message to the people of Pakistan on Pakistan Day
  • Says time to forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday welcomed a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Pakistan Day and said it was time to begin a dialogue to resolve all issues.

Nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that both claim in full but govern in part.

Tensions between the arch-rivals rose sharply last month over a suicide attack in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir in which at least 40 paramilitary troopers were killed. As India launched airstrikes in Pakistan and Pakistan retaliated with strikes of its own, the possibility of all-out war seemed all too real.

“I welcome PM Modi's message to our people,” Khan said in a Twitter post. “As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address & resolve all issues, esp the central issue of Kashmir, & forge a new relationship based on peace & prosperity for all our people.”

In a separate post, Khan said he had received the following message from Modi on the occasion of Pakistan Day, celebrated across the country to mark the anniversary of a 1940 resolution calling for a separate homeland for Muslims in India:

"I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”

Last year, soon after being elected as prime minister, Khan proposed talks to resolve the long-standing dispute over Kashmir and said Pakistan was ready to respond positively to any effort at dialogue.

“If India comes and takes one step toward us, we will take two,” Khan said after the July general election.

But in September, New Delhi called off a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, just a day after confirming it, citing “unclean intentions” on Pakistan’s side.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants fighting Indian rule in the Indian administered Kashmir. Pakistan denies this, saying it only provides diplomatic and moral support to people in Indian-held Kashmir fighting for self-determination.